Don't Mess With Mama Bear!

This article is not about a fun topic, but it has a good ending at least. This is about how I discovered in my own experience that discrimination towards working moms is alive and well. Here’s how it all went down.

The facts:

I was interviewing at a few different places, like you do when you're looking for work, and with some advice from a close family member, I decided not to tell one place right off the bat that I had a 4-month-old daughter during my interview. I probably would have blurted it right out if I hadn’t gotten that advice, because I didn’t really expect to be discriminated for that, but after a little thinking on it I decided that I better not mention it, since I wasn’t sure how a workplace would react and didn’t want to risk not getting hired some place if that did make a difference. A day after that interview however, I saw a call from a local number and I answered it thinking it was the doctor’s office or something, but my baby girl was crying really loudly. It happened to be the manager of a restaurant asking for an interview. I had to apologize and tell them that I had an upset 4-month-old, but that I would be there the next day for the interview.

I thought to myself that maybe this was for the better, to go into it with complete honesty and the ability to be totally upfront about my needs and availability that came along with being a newly working and first-time mom. So that’s exactly what I did; in the interview I laid out my situation and was very straightforward about needing and wanting only 2 to 3 shifts per week. The manager seemed very understanding, and was saying things, like “thats the sweet spot,” and “anything over that in the restaurant makes employees not perform at their best, anyways.”

I was hired on the spot and he had me on training that very weekend. So starting Friday and Saturday night, and then being asked to be back again on Monday and Tuesday to complete most of my training. I already felt like it was a lot at once, but to be fair, the shifts were on two separate work-weeks, even though it was already 4 shifts within 5 days. I told myself, it’s just a one-time-thing because of training, which got me through that first exhausting week of being back at work after taking my self-paid maternity leave.

The job was mentally fairly easy; I had worked at very fine-dining places in very touristy cities so this little casual restaurant in a tiny town neighboring where I grew up held no new challenges for me in the role of being a server, however being understaffed and other circumstances made it simply physically exhausting. My first week on the schedule on the floor by myself, I went in one day and had noticed an abbreviation after my morning lunch shift which I ended up finding out that day meant that it was a “swing shift.” Basically, a double. The way the management put it, they had an idea that the first lunch server would stay if needed during the first dinner rush and then be able to go home. However, the catch was that you had to stay a full 7 hours to even see if the next server needed you, and if they did, that put you at another 1-3 hours, depending on how busy it was. Also, this was the very first week they were trying out those shifts so of course none of this was mentioned in my interview.

I was realizing after 8 hours that I was going to be there all night if I didn’t say something, because people kept coming in and tables kept filling up in my section. I almost broke down crying, but held myself together in order to talk to the owner who was the acting manager on duty. I explained that I was not asked, or aware that I would be on such a long shift (any standard restaurant shift is 5-7 hours max) and that my baby wasn’t taking a bottle when I was at work; we had discovered that after hours and hours and weeks of pumping for that liquid gold, only to realize she refused it and was stubborn enough to hold out and wait to breastfeed until I came home. He acted understanding and said I could go after I wrapped up some side-work duties, so I finally clocked out at 8 1/2 hours. That day just so happened to be a beautiful summer day in Northern California: 100 degrees out, smoke-filled air, during a pandemic (summer 2020).

I let the manager know the very next day that I was not available for those “swing shifts” (doubles that they refused to call doubles). When I called however, he said he had just gotten in and basically hung up on me after saying he would get back to me. He never did, and a couple days later the schedule for the next week came out, and I had only one shift. I thought it seemed like a statement but didn’t want to take it personal yet (maybe they were trying to be thoughtful, or really only had one shift to give, I was new and part-time after all). I thought to myself, no big deal, I’ll see if any of the servers want to give up a shift. So that’s what I did. A coworker happened to want a day off and worked it for her which brought me to two shifts that week.

The following week my 5 month old baby girl got sick with a fever and other symptoms that concerned doctors so much, that we ended up in the ER twice. I kept in touch with the management explaining we were at the hospital, and that she was tested for Covid 19, but it came back negative (an important thing to let your workplace know in my opinion). While I was at the hospital, the next week’s schedule came out, with FOUR shifts on it assigned to me. I texted immediately explaining that this was simply too many shifts, with my baby being sick, and that also, that’s more than we had agreed upon when I was hired.

I got no response back, but when I showed up to work on Monday, I was told that they had gotten one of my shifts covered for me. I thanked them and again, explained that the 2-3 shifts would really work perfectly for me during this time with being a mom, and especially with my daughter being sick (and in the ER twice). I told them that of course if I was absolutely needed an extra day here or there, then I could do that if they asked ahead. I also explained that I worked in the restaurant industry for 10+ years and physically, I would love to be there more and was used to working doubles all the time regularly at my past jobs and even sometimes 13 hour days and 50 hour weeks, but that it simply wasn’t about me anymore; it was about my daughter needing me and my mom who was my main child care, and that it was a hard on them for me to be gone more than a few times a week and of course, for longer than a regular standard shift.

Sidenote: The flexibility and short shifts have always been a huge plus-side in the restaurant industry, why it had always been convenient for me, and why I thought it would be an easy transition after having my baby.

This is when everything started going downhill. The owner looked me straight in the eye and told me that he could not guarantee 2 to 3 shifts per week that we had agreed upon when I was hired and that at the end of the day, they needed to fill the schedule and keep the restaurant running. My problem with this was that it seemed very easy among us servers and that we could all have the shifts that we were wanting, because upon talking to my coworkers, we were able to figure out the schedule between us happily and even discovered that they were giving some people more shifts than they wanted and some less. So we decided to take things into our own hands and simply arrange our shifts with each other since the management was not able to do it for some reason… it’s not rocket science.

A few more weeks go by, and I end up getting a call from a job I had applied to before I started working here. I was shocked because I had already been told that the position was filled, but I was then offered the job after all! It was truly an unusual occurrence nothing short of a miracle. This was my number one job that I had really wanted to get in the first place. It was a whole different career in a different environment; at a financial institution. After working in the restaurant business for so long I was really ready for a change.

Becoming a mom also made me very motivated to get out of the restaurant industry and look for something that was more steady that had more opportunity for me including better hours, healthcare benefits, etc. and that would benefit my daughter and coincide better with mom-life. So the funny thing is that literally two days after I was offered the job, I was pulled aside after work one day at the restaurant and basically told that I wasn’t a good fit for them.

Mr. Ego-Power-Trip Manager approached me so unprofessionally, and was so immature with the whole situation, it was laughable (after I had a good cry about it first). He had been putting me on one shift one week, then four the next, and so on. This pattern repeated itself ever since I was hired and I was never once given the 2 to 3 shifts that we had agreed upon when I was hired. Of course in an interview for a serving position, you don’t ask them to put it in writing, who would ever think that was needed? He told me that I wasn’t a team player and that I went behind his back when I tried to arrange my own schedule (even though he was not available to talk about it when I tried). He also said it left a bad taste in his mouth when I told him I wasn’t able to do the doubles.

My response was that I thought he would have preferred me to go about it that way by working it out amongst ourselves and not trouble him. I didn't try to argue, yet I did feel defensive, but nothing I said registered or mattered to his pea-sized brain. Even though I was already offered a much better job and knew this at the time, it’s still never fun being yelled at and scolded for reasons that are totally ridiculous and absurd and that I simply didn’t deserve. He also made bogus claims that I was slacking on side-work. This was just to make his argument seem more substantial and make it seem like it wasn’t just a vendetta against me and the scheduling (which it was). He literally looked me in the eye and said, “Maybe it was too soon for you to go back to work.” Like whaaaaaattttt kind of misogynistic sexist bullshit is that?!

I texted him the next morning and told him that I felt very discriminated against being a newly working mother, that I have always been a team player, and that he made it very clear I was not wanted on the team; so therefore I would not be coming into work anymore effective immediately. He gave me no response.

For your information, I have never quit a job like this before. At almost every single job of the many I’ve had in the past, I’ve always become friends and in some cases literal life-long best friends with my managers, and when it’s time to leave and move onto a new job, they're always cheering me on or were legit in on it from the start, helping me along each step in my life journey and careers.

He had told me that I had one more week to work it out in our meeting but I decided to take that as a clear sign to spend a little more time with my baby before my new job started the next month, even though I would have stayed longer and given a more proper notice had he not approached me that way. Good riddance to you, Mr. I’m-A-Man-And-Therefore-Superior-To-You, and all the rest of your petty asses! I busted my butt there during a pandemic in 100° weather and smoke-filled skies from the fires surrounding us, was always on time, professional, polite, and straight up the most delightful cheerful server they had and still wasn’t a good fit for them. LOL. I was even told that I brought class that was much needed to that place from a totally non-biased customer there.

This is why at the end of the day I did not take this personally. I feel like I was overqualified for that job and even if they didn’t see that, they could sense it, and we were vibrating on whole other levels. The universe has my back and that’s what my take-away was from this whole experience. My situation wasn’t even that bad, seeing as how I was offered a better job at the same time that all the shit went down, and that I was in a position financially to where I could leave abruptly. It was saddening to realize that the discrimination against working mothers is very real, though. I don’t wish it upon anyone and especially to women that don’t have opportunities to move to a different job or take time off to figure out what’s next for them.

It did also give me motivation to start my own business and realize that I want to be my own boss one day in the future. Who knows, if that hadn’t happened, I may not have been writing this blog and started a whole brand or launched my own website and business. As cliché as it is, everything happens for a reason. I do believe we are all on our own paths, have our own soul contracts with the universe, and our own lessons that we must go through to continue to learn and grow.

I hope we can all find a balance of enjoying the sweetest adventures this world has to offer us while giving our energy back into the community and cultivating prosperity by doing something we can find joy and passion in, and remember to trust in the Universe (or whatever/whoever you give your Faith to in a higher power), because it might just throw you an unexpected curveball-blessing!

Q?: What would you do with your time if money wasn’t an obstacle? Would you still work? Would you be a full-time parent? Would you dedicate your time to your creative outlets? Travel?

Right out your answer in your journal. If you don’t have a journal, go to a bookstore and pick one out that really pleases you aesthetically so you’ll be drawn to it and hopefully write in it eventually!

Song of the Day: “Know Your Worth” by Khalid

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